As we went deeper into the jungle, combats became more frequent, though fortunately most of them weren’t with anything of the same caliber as the dire tiger we fought. Now that I remembered I had it, I used my adamantine dagger frequently. Perhaps it wasn’t good to rely too much one one piece of equipment, since it could be lost, but it would also be a waste to not use it. Often times I would miss or not hit anything important, and when the enemies approached I would switch to melee combat anyway, unless there was just a single enemy Alhorn could keep control of.
We got quite a bit of experience during that next week, which of course meant I leveled down. I just tried not to think about it and kept up my Strength training, though I couldn’t do as much on the road since I needed to be able to fight any time. It was nice being based in a city where you could take days off without just sitting around in dangerous wilderness. Especially since on those days off you could go on dates.
Sure, technically Kantrilla and I could spend the whole day together, but doing so with other people around in a place where you could be attacked at any time just wasn’t the same. I considered picking her some flowers… but it seemed kind of embarrassing. Especially since there were so many of them around. Maybe once we were back in Othya.
We’d been moving around in one particular area for a couple days- according to Halette’s reading of the map we had, Ehlark would be nearby. There had been a lot of looking around and Socks sniffing things. Finally, we found it. It would have been impossible if we hadn’t known the right general area to search, and without Socks we might have missed it. At least, I didn’t see the hut until it was pointed out to me. It looked just like a pile of bushes and vines until I saw a small window.
We approached carefully, but not sneakily. Sneaking around wouldn’t do us any good. The door was on the other side, and Khyrmin knocked on the door, speaking in elven. Then we waited a minute, and she knocked again.
It was possible that he was out… and that would just mean waiting. It was also possible that we had come all this way and he had moved somewhere else. I couldn’t help but look at Kasner’s leg. It was covered up by pants, but I could just see the icy ankle. It must have been hard to maintain here where it was warm… but at least it had enough moisture. I really hoped we hadn’t come all this way for nothing. At least, we needed to ask him for help. If he refused it was one thing, but if we never found him…
We all stood by our horses. It was a good chance to get off and stretch anyway. After waiting another minute, Khyrmin knocked again, speaking louder. Then, finally, the door opened.
Standing in the doorway was a disheveled looking man. He didn’t seem to care that his hair was long and unkempt or that his shorter beard had leaves in it- clearly not placed there strategically. I didn’t understand anything that Khyrmin said except Ehlark, Salinde, and her own name. Ehlark, presumably, just leaned against the doorframe and shrugged. It was hard to read his face as he responded- partly because of the beard, but even without it he only seemed minimally expressive. He spoke slowly in a deep voice.
Then Khyrmin pulled out her sword. Had things gone badly so quickly? Except Khyrmin shouted towards us, “Archers!”
I barely had enough time to pull my shield off my back and turn around. With Martial Trance, I only had an instant to angle my shield to block an arrow. Halette dodged an arrow, one glanced off of Alhorn’s armor, Kantrilla managed to get her shield behind her as she turned, and Kasner’s pony bit an arrow right out of the air. She then started chewing on it. Socks was actually hit by two arrows- she dodged a couple more, but while she was extremely agile she was also quite large. One of the arrows bounced off of her ironlike fur, but another stuck and created a small red patch in her fur.
I didn’t see what happened with Khyrmin, but I did see two arrows fly overhead. I wasn’t really worried though. What I was worried about was finding the archers who were shooting at us- because I couldn’t see a single one.
Then a low voice boomed out from behind us… and two elves fell out of the trees they were in, as the branches suddenly moved. They managed to catch themselves and hop to the ground safely, but all around us plants moved to reveal what had previously been clever hiding spots.
“Start with the north!” Khyrmin called out, “Don’t let them maintain a full circle!”
I wasn’t quite sure where north was, but Halette started shooting over to the right of the hut. Socks was running that way as well, at a target Halette pointed out. Alhorn moved to cover Halette’s back, and Kantrilla crouched down behind her shield, trying to block as many angles as she could.
I picked out an elf in that direction and threw my dagger. He was probably a hundred feet away. I wished I had a skill like Piercing Spear for daggers- and while it might be possible to adapt the skill, the weapons were rather different so it would take time. However, muscle power and a very sharp dagger worked as well. I just barely managed to hit my target in the upper thigh, and that made his nocked arrow go off target. At the same time, I got hit by an arrow in the back… and then another. They penetrated through the armor… not far, but the wounds weren’t trivial either. I almost lost control of my Return Weapon.
Things were crazy, with Socks jumping on people, Halette shooting arrows, and Kasner freezing bowstrings. Kantrilla also got shot in the leg, and a couple of our horses were hit. Then vines started reaching out and grabbing onto some of the elves, and I heard a sound behind me that I could only assume was Khyrmin stabbing people- I had heard it enough times for it to be a good guess.
With the first few archers taken care of, I turned to my right, just in time to block an arrow coming right for me. Somehow, it pierced right through my shield, through my vambraces and into my arm. Fortunately the next arrow over that was aimed at me failed to go anywhere as a frozen bow string snapped. I caught my dagger and threw it at the archer who had shot through my other arm, activating Rage. More Strength and Toughness was what I needed, even if it made me tire more quickly. We certainly couldn’t afford the battle dragging out. In fact, without Khyrmin and Ehlark the battle would have been extremely short… and not at all in our favor.